Looking back on QS Europe conference

In the weekend of May 11 we attended Quantified Self Europe Conference. Antoine on Sunday and I did the Saturday. I am following the whole QS movement and events for a while now but was not able to attend the conference last year. It has a special atmosphere because of the relative newness of the topic and the dedicated community attending the events. Like mobile was back in 2009 or so.

I will not do an in depth report on the talks, more give some reflections from the day. And Antoine will give his of the Sunday. Find a good live blogging report from Hans de Zwart, and I also collected my tweets of the day on Storify.

The morning started for me with a couple of show and tell talks. It was nice to see how the QS field is interpreted differently by people. Some are really health focused or data driven, aiming to control life to the max. Others are more reflective and curious what they can learn from data and what it will add to life. I noticed this before on one of the Amsterdam events. In any case could you say that Quantified Self is more of the mean to the higher goal of Self Learning.

As Marius Kazarnowicz kicked off: “I do not do things because of who I am, I am who I am because of the things I do.”

The first show-and-tell talks made again clear how different the Quantified Self movement is in its approach. From the data focused body control type to the more philosophical oriented one that is thinking on the consequences for the way we tune our personal autopilot by the consciousness use of qs data.

Michael Kazarnowicz showed that combining different sources of data can be valuable. He analysed his blogging behaviour and sentiment and connect this to his fitbit stats. More walking leads to more reflective posts. Apparently is walking good for thinking. Later we saw that an app made to analyze the booze consumption could be pivot in a Parkinson’s disease tracker.

Steven Jonas adds that learning from tracking succeeds when the feedback cycle becomes more important that the analytics itself.

Quantified Self as gamifying your life is an important part always. During the ignite talks an app (Achievemint) that incentivise losing weight did not convince me. Using the joy of getting in control as part of a diabetes program as presented by David Gordon, looks more valid.

Mark Leavitt introduced his model for reaching change. Learn from yourself, Make a mental model of willpower and habit mechanism and Hack this for change. His learnings is that even life-long habits can be changed.

Some inspiration from other talks like the creation of a self punishment platform so that people can connect their own punishments with behavior. Self-hacking is a more inspiring concept as self-tracking. And health is not created in healthcare, selfcare plays as much more important role. Interesting to think on: if all healthcare becomes personalized to the max, is research thant also based on n=1?

The first day is closed by a panel discussion on Memoto. An interesting device that takes continuously pictures from your vision point, with intervals of 30 seconds. Watching the photos made me wonder if there is a critical interval between pics taken related to the intruding feeling.

Memoto has some interesting interaction principles, for instance the lack of an on/off switch. You have to physically remove the device to switch it off. You can of course discuss if Memoto is more on quantifying yourself or your environment, and what is the relationship with your context for learning about yourself.

Good end of a good day full of quantified self.

Sunday was my turn (Antoine so) to attend. Since the beginning of February, I immersed myself in this group self tracking enthusiasts. The measuring equipment and methods are now known. With such Fitbits, Nike Fuel Bands and Jawbones one quantifies everything there is to quantify. What one learns varies by person, and that’s the interesting thing about the Show & Tell talks, of which I attended a couple.

These short presentations are based on three central questions:

  1. What did you do?
  2. How did you do it?
  3. What did you learn?

Ellis Bartholomeus made pictures of everything she ate for three months. (Photo collage here) This meant that she was much more aware of the food she ate. Everything she put in her mouth had to be photographed after all. After a few months she had a food diary. The food became kind of an anchor through that period of time. Of every picture she knew exactly where she was, who she was with and where she talked about. She could remember all the events better.

What I found interesting about this is that she did not ‘convert’ her food into calories, but kept the data qualitative.

Mattheo Lai of Empatica told about Emotion Tracking. With a self-developed stress sensor they measure stress levels in the office. Which locations within the building provide a lot of stress (own workplace, the boss room) and which less (the coffee machine, other floor etc.)?

Most interesting presentation of the day I found the one of  Eleanor Watson of Poikos on the FlixFit. This is an application for smartphones using two photos (front view and side view) and smart algorithms to make a 3D model of people. Based on this, it calculates length, shoulder width, leg length etc, which could help buying clothes. At the same time they are working on the creation of a global anthropological database.

Amusing end the day was Stan James. Every 30 minutes, his webcam made a photo, for a year! This led to many useful insights, like: 9.5% of the time in Starbucks, 179 hours with laptop in bed etc… More about his project ‘Life Slice’ here.

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  1. Pingback: The 2013 Quantified Self Europe Conference RoundupQuantified Self

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